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Avoiding politics at the table

Nature Human Behaviourvolume 2page537 (2018) | Download Citation

Political partisanship is on the rise in the United States, with both Democrats and Republicans exhibiting partisan biases in many decisions, such as where to work and shop.

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M. Keith Chen, of University of California, Los Angeles, and Ryne Rohla, of Washington State University, wanted to know whether there were similar effects of political affiliation on family dynamics; specifically on the duration of Thanksgiving dinners. Using anonymized location and voting data from more than 10 million US citizens, they find that Thanksgiving dinners attended by members of opposing political parties were 30 to 50 minutes shorter than those attended by members of the same political parties. This was not due to demographics, distance or travel time, but did seem to be partially due to political advertising (often designed to polarize opinions and dislike for the other party); in fact, Thanksgiving dinners were even shorter for bipartisan families living in precincts with heavy political advertising. Interestingly, these effects were different for Democrats and Republicans: while Democrats travelled less as polarization increased, their Republican counterparts did not change the amount they travelled but rather responded by shortening their dinners by more minutes. Taken together, these data show that cross-partisan Thanksgiving dinners were shortened by 34 million hours in 2016.

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    • Mary Elizabeth Sutherland


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Correspondence to Mary Elizabeth Sutherland.

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